e-Commerce/e-Procurement Practice

Challenges You Face Services We Provide

User Experience/Search. User experience and information architecture are a significant challenge. Information should be presented in a meaningul way. Typically this involves a fair amount of custom user interface design to meet the needs of a particular application domain. Though not stricly a user interface issue, search also impacts the user experience greatly, perhaps more so than the site design itself. Does the user easily find what she wants? Sites that are not easy to use and search will simply not be used. The search engine design is typically non-trivial and is tied to the complexities of catalog rationalization and integration.

Supplier Integration and Catalog Management. Catalog management is also a significant challenge both in terms of the underlying data management infrastructure and a company's ability to rationalize the data from a wide range of suppliers  to facilitate search and comparison.  

Workflow. B2B ventures will typically need to support some level of purchasing approval or workflow.  Designing a custom workflow engine or choosing an appropriate third-party product can be a challenge. Typically, the workflow needs to highly customizable given each user's individual business processes. Typically, the integration of third-party product is non-trivial.  

Business Process Modeling and Optimization. You need to understand, document, model, and streamline your business processes. Just as it is important for the backend infrastructure to scale under load, business processes must be engineered to scale and take advantage of online automation.  

Fulfillment. Some sites may need to track fulfillment status, such as fills, partial fills, backorders, and shipping status. Some sites may go further and need to optimize inventory management and the supply chain to avoid stock outs, support just-in-time manufacturing, or provide best pricing. Many sites will need to foster some degree of self-service customer service where order status and transaction history may be viewed. 

Payment. The check out process requires electronic payment and tax calculation. While there are many third-party solutions to solve these problems, they can be difficult to integrate or limited in terms of their functionality. 

Regulatory Compliance. Some companies will have compliance issues beyond tax, requiring a compliance engine to be developed. (We developed one for Wineshopper)

Backend Infrastructure. All successful sites will need to design a backend that provides excellent customer response times and scalable transaction throughput.  Common issues here center on the search engine design, caching strategy, application server architecture, reuse of components, and system architecture. Many sites that expect increasing site load should conduct a capacity planning study. We share our insight into mission-critical application development and system scalability to make sure a site backend is reliable and scalable. We advise on the range of hardware/software technologies, communication, database, e-commerce, componentware, XML and middleware, that an e-commerce or internet startup needs to model, implement, and automate their business processes. 

Partner  Integration. Sites may need to integrate with a variety of partner systems. This can involve custom protocol development using XML, the integration of an industry standard protocol such as cXML, the integration of XML server or other middleware.

Decision Support. Many sites need to provide some level of decision support and business intelligence. Your order database quickly becomes a datawarehouse that you must use to manage your supply chain. Furthermore, your backend must be able to provide the value-add services that will retain your customers.

Assess Your Situation: 

  1. Do you have a clear understanding of your competitive position, requirements, strategy, and business processes? How will you balance buyer and supplier features? How will you rationalize supplier catalog data? How will you manage exceptions, such as returns, back orders, and partial fills? How will you fulfill orders in a reliable and efficient manner?  How will you comply with tax law and other regulations? How will you stay on top of changes to the tax codes and shipping and handling calculations?

  2. Is your mission-critical backend reliable? Will it scale under load? Have you assessed operational characteristics, points of failure, and recovery strategies?  Do you have a robust communications and notification architecture?

  3. Are your customers getting the quality of service they expect? Will you be able to provide the value-added services they will want?

  4. Does your investment in technology give you the decision support you need?

  5. Has someone outside our organization reviewed your technical architecture?

e-Commerce/e-Procurement Strategy

Ariba Solutions Advisory

ATG Commerce Solutions Advisory

Custom Product Development

Business and Technical Requirements Analysis

Business and Technical Strategy Assessments: Scope, Risk, Cost Assessments

Business Process Engineering

Scoping Documents, Functional and Detailed Design Specifications

Schema Design

Application/System Architectures: Documentation, Roadmaps, Technical Reviews

Hardware/Software Selections: RFP Development, Vendor Evaluations

System Integration: Databases, Application Servers,  Middleware, XML Partner Integration Frameworks

Project Planning 

Stress Testing and Benchmarks

Prototypes and Pilots

Knowledge Transfer

Team Building




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